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Kevin Landrigan's Granite Status: 1st Congressional District Dems try out gun control messages

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 28. 2018 9:54PM

With the deadly mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., now three weeks in the rearview mirror, Democratic candidates in the 1st Congressional District have begun to promote their gun control agenda.

The woman they seek to replace, retiring Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, started the dialogue by co-sponsoring legislation earlier this week to reinstate the ban on certain “assault-style’’ weapons that expired in 2004, including the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting.

“One law can’t stop every mass shooting, but we can make them less deadly and less frequent,” Shea-Porter said. “These weapons of war were designed for military use and have one purpose: to kill lots of people quickly and easily. We need to take action now.”

The measure would allow existing owners of such weapons to keep them as long as they are safely stored.

The breadth of the bill comes from its language since it prohibits the “sale, transfer, production, and importation” of semi-automatic rifles and pistols that can hold a detachable magazine, as well as semi-automatic rifles with a magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds.

Additionally, the legislation bans the sale, transfer, production, and importation of semi-automatic shotguns with features such as a pistol grip or detachable stock, and ammunition feeding devices that can hold more than 10 rounds.

Former AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie, one of now-eight Democratic candidates in this primary, said Congress must stand up to the National Rifle Association and show the American people that changes must occur.

“Assault weapons have no place outside of law enforcement and we don’t need them in general circulation,” MacKenzie said during an interview.

“The people are awake to the idea that they want their children to be safe and it’s time government did something about it. We owe them some response and this would be a good first step.”

Rochester City Attorney Terence O’Rourke of Alton is an Army veteran of the Iraq War and has a Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge for his service.

“We must look inside ourselves and ask why these weapons of war have become part of our culture,” O’Rourke said in response.

“As the only candidate in this race who has used one of these weapons in combat and had them used against me, I know that these weapons of war have no place in civil society. Simply saying they are protected by the Second Amendment is a cheap and easy cop out. The Constitution and its Amendments are not a suicide pact. Courts have consistently upheld bans on weapons of war against Second Amendment challenges.”

Maura Sullivan of Portsmouth was a U.S. Marine captain who saw duty in Fallujah, Iraq.

“Weapons of war have no place in our communities, nor do policy ‘solutions’ that arm teachers. I stand with @TeamSheaPorter, who has once again stepped up at a critical moment to lead. Enough is enough,” Sullivan said on social media.

The congressional campaign of Executive Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester did not respond to a request for comment.

Pappas embraced universal background checks before the purchase of handguns, closing the so-called gun show loophole.

“You can keep guns out of the wrong hands and save lives — and everyone’s for it. Time to do your job, Congress,” Pappas tweeted.

Campaign spending

State Republican leaders have to be wondering whether a few thousand-dollar checks arriving at the right time could have turned the tide of another New Hampshire House special election that went the Democrats’ way on Tuesday.

As we first reported, thanks to Jason Kander’s Let America Vote PAC, Democrat Phil Spagnuolo Jr. had more than a 2-1 advantage in campaign spending over Republican Les Cartier.

America Voters New Hampshire is the umbrella group locally that also drew on the resources of the National Education Association, Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and AFSCME to generate door knocks, phone calls and online media in support of Spagnuolo.

When the votes came in, the first-time candidate Cartier lost but with 46.5 percent of the vote. He outperformed popular GOP businessman Steve Whalley who had lost to Democrat Charlie St. Clair last September in another House special election.

Whalley got only 42.8 percent of the Laconia vote in that runoff.

The turnout in Laconia this week, 1,807 unofficially casting ballots, was quite close to the 1,838 who voted last September.

What Gov. Chris Sununu and GOP state Chairman Jeanie Forrester were up against was Cartier lacked an endorsement of any of the socially-conservative groups that could have readily supplied boots on the ground.

Americans for Prosperity, the National Right to Work Committee, New Hampshire Right to Life, and Gun Owners of New Hampshire all sat this one out, leaving Cartier and allies to rely on their own resources.

It was all about the ground game and the Democrats pulled it out.

Meanwhile, the state party would do well to encourage Cartier to make another run for the House this fall since this race shows he could break into the top four elected to represent all six wards in Laconia this November.

St. Clair holds the seat now made up of Laconia and the town of Belmont.

Family and medical leave

Supporters of the family and medical leave bill got a bad case of sticker shock this week. And the development raises a serious question about what the news could mean for what has been a surprisingly strong, bipartisan campaign.

Employment Security Deputy Commissioner Richard Lavers told a working group of the House Finance Committee that it could take up to $50 million in resources to carry out the benefit law slated to start next Jan. 1.

The agency says it will take at least 24 months after the law passes to create a benefit application that tracks all employers and ultimately levies a payroll tax of .67 percent of wages for private companies that are in this program.

By 2022, it would cost $4.2 million in staff and $2 million in other costs to manage it.

This perhaps speaks to why candidate Sununu embraced the concept of family and medical leave but since then has only said he has “concerns” about financing and how to carry out such a benefit.

For some time, the state Senate has been viewed as ground zero for the bill’s survival. The House has passed it twice already and could do it again despite the new and bigger bottom line.

To this point, however, no Republican state senator has been on the bill or advocated for it.

Farewell to former Rep.

Here’s a fond farewell to former Rep. Irene Messier, R-Manchester, who recently passed away. A 30-year incumbent in the House, this grand lady always had a smile for everyone.

For some veterans it was fitting Messier would leave this earth less than a year after her longtime friend, Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, died as well.

The two drove together to Concord for years and Messier, a political moderate, was one of the few in the entire Legislature who could get the verbally volatile Vaillancourt under control.

In these days of hyper-partisan politics of personal destruction, it’s increasingly hard to find those like Messier who never had a bad word to say about anyone, and of whom no one ever said a bad word. RIP.

Levi Sanders enters race

The sudden entry of Bernie Sanders’ son into the 1st Congressional District race could be good news for both parties.

In the short term, Republican candidates love nothing better than to try and make Levi Sanders their foil.

“This is appalling, but not at all surprising that Bernie Sanders is sending his socialist son here to dismantle our state motto. New Hampshire has always been a state that believes in personal freedom, personal liberty, and individual rights,” said state Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, in a fundraising email.

Fellow GOP rival and Carroll County Commissioner Mark Hounsell was no more welcoming.

“Mr. Sanders’ entrance into the race is a that of a “mini-carpetbagger.” Liberal Democrats are so hungry for political power they continue to demonstrate disrespect for political sovereignty of all the people who reside within a defined district,” Hounsell said.

Meanwhile, the seven Democrats already running in the 1st District primary, once they get over resentment about Levi Sanders trying to bigfoot this race, may come to realize his involvement creates more national buzz about a campaign that has been getting very little.

The winner of this primary, if it’s not Sanders’ son, will get an even bigger bump than he or she otherwise would have.

One thing is certain. There’s still enough time between now and the Sept. 11 primary for Levi Sanders to be a serious, failed or even withdrawn candidate for this seat since the candidate filing period is still three months away.

Women for Marchand coalition

Democratic candidate for governor Steve Marchand rolled out a 250-member Women for Marchand coalition part of what he called a bid to announce up to 1,000 supporters in the coming weeks.

The group includes Bedford Town Councilor Catherine Rombeau and Rep. Sherry Frost, D-Dover.

Marchand’s own plan for gun control is the latest attempt by the Portsmouth Democrat to build an organization and policy plans in anticipation of getting a challenge in the Democratic primary. The latest activist exploring such a bid is former state Sen. Molly Kelly of Harrisville.

Opioid crisis policy changes

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., was among a group of eight senators unveiling the bipartisan, CARA 2.0 Act which seeks to make policy changes to help fight the opioid crisis.

Among those changes would increase penalties for opioid makers who fail to maintain effective control, lift the cap on the number of patients a doctor can treat with medication-assisted therapies and compel doctors and pharmacists to use their state prescription drug monitoring program as the one passed in 2012 that Hassan later helped carry out as governor.

The effort follows up on the federal budget agreement that earmarks an additional $6 billion to combat the epidemic.

“This bill will help support additional treatment capacity and it will also help ensure that first responders are safe and well-trained when responding to overdoses — a priority that I have heard about from New Hampshire public safety officials,” Hassan said.

There’s a certain level of political symmetry to this effort.

Hassan’s predecessor, Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., was one of the four original sponsors of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that passed in 2015.

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